I've come upon many sentences that have put parentheses around words that are essential to the sentence's meaning. I was wondering why these words are written like this? Here is an example: "But for some reason the (boys) make us laugh." Why is "boys" put in parentheses?

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    Welcome to English Language & Usage. Where did you see such a sentence? I cannot think of a reason why anyone would want to do this. – Cascabel Jan 29 '17 at 19:50

This is a quotation from MTV's original disclaimer for the show 'Beavis and Butthead'

Beavis and Butt-head are not real. They are stupid cartoon people completely made up by this Texas guy who we hardly even know. Beavis and Butt-head are dumb, crude, thoughtless, ugly, sexist, self-destructive fools. But for some reason, the little weinerheads make us laugh.

In most online versions of this the expression in parentheses, (boys), replaces little weinerheads; presumably somebody somewhere thought (or pretended to think, as a joke) that little weinerheads was too vulgar to put before their readers.

In academic contexts square brackets [] are usually used to acknowledge alterations to an original; but this particular edit is unlikely to appear in an academic context.

  • So then the "many sentences" as mentioned in the OP is actually only this single usage? – Cascabel Jan 29 '17 at 20:31
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    @Cascabel It's the only one OP gives. I have in fact seen other instances of edits marked with parens instead of square brackets, but I have no idea how to find one in a hurry. – StoneyB Jan 29 '17 at 20:35

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